[Attachment(s) from International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines included below]
PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY (APOLOGIES FOR CROSS POSTING)
PLEASE FIND BELOW AND ATTACHED AN APPEAL FROM OUR GENERAL SECRETARY
AN URGENT APPEAL FOR SOLIDARITY AND ACTION
Dear NCCP friend and supporters:
I write to you that you help us raise protest against the recent harassment of the family of one of our NCCP staff members and the ongoing harassment against the government employees union COURAGE.
On June 28, 2015, Raquel L. Toquero, national staff of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), and her husband Mervin H. Toquero, the acting program secretary of the Program Unit on Faith, Witness and Service of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), were having breakfast at their home in Cavite with their three children and preparing to attend church. At about 8:00 a.m., two men claiming to be soldiers suddenly appeared at their kitchen door asking for Raquel. They refused to show their identification cards or their mission orders. They said that “they wanted to talk to Raquel for they know what she has been doing ….”
What Raquel “has been doing” is fighting for workers to enjoy their rights and receive decent wages. COURAGE contends for a national monthly minimum wage of 16,000 pesos per month, or about US$350, for private as well as public workers. Since April 2015, COURAGE union officers and organizers have had to face more than 20 incidents like this one involving Raquel and Mervin Toquero. The incident left the family agitated and threatened as it happened inside their family compound where Mervin’s father, Bishop Solito K. Toquero, a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church and former vice chairperson of the NCCP also resides. Naturally, the Toquero family is concerned about their safety, especially in the current environment of impunity that prevails in the Philippines. Indeed, human rights defenders in the Philippines who have had similar experiences to those of the Toquero family earlier often faced continued harassment and became victims of even more serious human rights violations, including arrest on false charges, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
It is in this grave context that NCCP now seeks your solidarity and action to call on the Philippine government to stop its harassment of trade union organizers. This recent spate of harassment against leaders and officers of COURAGE, and of other defenders of the constitutional and international human rights must stop. We also covet your prayers for our ongoing efforts for human rights. Thank you very much.
Grace and Peace
Rev. Fr. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Please write to:
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Atty. Leila De Lima,
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila 1000
Republic of the Philippines
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire Gazmin,
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City
Commission on Human Rights Of The Philippines
SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue
UP Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
You can also release statements of support for the COURAGE unionists and to call on Philippine state agents to stop such attacks.
Write letters of concern to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Protection of the Rights of Human Rights Defenders via firstname.lastname@example.org , to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression via email@example.com , to the UN Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly and of Association via firstname.lastname@example.org , and other relevant international human rights mechanisms;
The following letter may serve as a guide as you express your concern
We are alarmed to learn from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) that one of its staff, Mervin Toquero, and his wife, Raquel are being harassed by persons claiming to be members of the military. We strongly condemn this brazen act of harassment perpetrated against Mervin and Raquel Toquero and their family.
The harassment incident took place on June 28, 2015 at the residence of the Toqueros in Cavite. Two men appeared at their door at 8:00 a.m. claiming to be soldiers and looking for Raquel, a national staff of a government employees union, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees ( COURAGE). The men refused Mervin’s request that they show their identity papers and mission order and that they have their conversation in the balcony. Instead, the men peered through the window and called to Raquel, who was inside the house, to say they know her activities and offered to help her, handing her a paper with the name, Delia, and the number 09261430628 on it.
The incident left the family feeling gravely threatened. They have reason to be concerned about their safety given the climate of impunity in the country. In most cases, the extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders were preceded by systematic harassment of the victims similar to the one experienced by Mervin and Raquel Toquero and their family.
We are concerned that the harassment perpetrated against Mervin and Raquel Toquero and their family may be part of your Government’s national security policy and legitimizes the use of threats, harassment and intimidation to quell dissent and protests against government policies. We are aware that this is an ongoing campaign of harassment that has been targeting union activists, in particular the officers, staff and organizers of COURAGE (Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees). In the last several months, COURAGE has documented 20 cases of union members being harassed by persons claiming to be members of the military and the police.
We call on you to ensure that the legitimate rights of those involved in labor organizing are respected and that people be protected from forms of harassment and intimidation.
Mr. President, the violation of the rights of Mervin and Raquel Toquero, COURAGE members and other human rights defenders must be stopped immediately.
We call on you to guarantee their safety by ordering the military and police to halt immediately this campaign of harassment and threat against Mervin and Raquel Toquero and their family, COURAGE leaders and members and all human rights defenders.